Monday, October 07, 2013

Clancy, Barnard and Mundine - threads

Daylight saving crept up on me. I am still disoriented! This morning, a very gentle wander through some of the things that I have noticed, or have been drawn to my attention.

In a comment on A day at the Fleet Review, kvd drew my attention to this link about walks around Sydney. I have been slowly doing some of those walks; this is an earlier example: Introducing the Berry Island and Balls Head Walk. In some ways, Sydney is a breathtakingly beautiful city because of the harbour. For a history nut like me, each walk is also a chance to deepen my knowledge. So many of the guides are very superficial, stitched together from a few sources, that the real story gets lost. You can do these walks just for the beauty, but I like a little more.Tome Clancy

I was saddened to hear of the death of the US writer Tom Clancy for he gave me much pleasure with his earlier books. The photo is from the Sydney Morning Herald obituary.

I first came across Clancy in Canberra when I was involved in the periphery of a major submarine procurement by the Royal Australian Navy. "You must read The Hunt for Red October", a Defence Department colleague said. I"t is the best book I know on submarines." I did, for I hadn't been involved in subs before. It was good, but i liked his later books better.

Clancy was a good writer who could tell a tale. I enjoyed that. But I also found his underlying political views that played out in the career of Jack Ryan interesting. Clancy was a remarkably good way of understanding certain threads US political thought that would later create the Tea Party movement. I didn't enjoy his later and co-authored or sponsored books so much and stopped reading. This had become techno, games babble.

English crime writer Robert Barnard has also died. His first book, Death of an Old Goat, to use the English rather than US title, was actually set in Armidale, Drummondale in the book. I last wrote on this book back in 2012 in History revisited - literature's window to our past. It was a somewhat raw book, but very funny for those who knew the local scene. I both cringed and laughed. Barnard went on to considerable success as a crime writer. Mundine and then wife Lynette with their daughter Garigarra in 1992.

Regular readers will know that I follow Aboriginal politics reasonably closely and also write a fair bit on Aboriginal issues. It's hard sometimes. I was reminded of this by a piece in the Sydney Morning Herald on Warren Mundine, the head of Mr Abbott's new Indigenous Council.

I hadn't properly realised the New England connections, This photo of Mr Mundine and then wife Lynette was taken in 1992. They were living in Armidale as was I, but would move to Dubbo the following year, starting Mr Mundine's real rise.

I cannot comment on the detail of Mr Mundine's life, but he is the subject of scathing criticism. This is an example from Facebook:

He is not taken seriously by many, if that is any consolation. He's like the Kevin Rudd of Aboriginal affairs - an unapologetic political whore. Loves the media attention, but has absolutely nothing of substance to say beyond the blatantly obvious.

I am very, very, careful about what I say on Aboriginal issues. I really do exercise self-censorship. I have no time for those who denigrate. I try to tell the historical story as best I can. However, there is a thread in Aboriginal commentary, commentary by Aborigines,that I find very difficult.

Partly I think of it as the re-assertion of claims, of pride. I can share that, promote it. But partly I think of it as exclusionist, the assertion of beliefs and rights that are both impractical and, in many case,s a-historical, I look and see the creation of a new ghetto, but this one accepted, sought for, not imposed. As a non-Aboriginal Australian. I have no place there.

It's all very complicated. A few years back, i had lunch with a NSW Aboriginal leader. He explained that there were two Aboriginal groups in NSW, those connected with mish (mission) or reserve and the fringies, the fringe dwellers, who refused to accept the dictates of the Aboriginal Protection or Welfare Board. They broke out, created a new life. Today, or so it seems to me, Aboriginal thinking in NSW is dominated by connections to mish or reserve, dominated by the need to redress past wrongs as compared to the advancement of the Aboriginal peoples. I wonder how representative all this is?

I won't go on at his point. Just a note. I do wonder, however, how many generations have to pass before the problems of the present will be accepted as problems of the present as compared to the legacy of the past.         


Anonymous said...

Let me guess: the person you lunched with came from the former category he described to you?

Jim Belshaw said...

He was a fringie, marcellous.

Evan said...

Did you see the doco on ABC about the making of Namatjira (the stage show)? In it an elder talks about two groups as parallel lines. One traditional and one modern - and the people who try to move between them are confused and lost.

I too am cautious what I say about white person issues with aboriginal people. I do think neo-liberal tosh remains neo-liberal tosh even when espoused by Noel Pearson.

Evan said...

Some of Barnard's novels I loved. The one about opera (I forget the title) was the one I liked best.

Jim Belshaw said...

I didn't see the ABC doco, Evan, but that sounds like another theme. All the patterns are a little different. I know NSW best.

Interesting about the caution thing. I exercise caution about many groups, its partly a politeness thing, but it is more pronounced in the case of the Aborigines, in part because of my Aboriginal friends and colleagues. I don't want to upset them.

All that said, I can't totally avoid some of these topics because of my historical writing on New England. There one thread is the Aboriginal story. I try to write objectively, but its not always easy.

Jim Belshaw said...

On Barnard, Evan, you are one of the few people I know who has read his books. I must do so. I am especially interested in one of his later books where he returned to the New England locale.

Anonymous said...

The thing which I can't quite stomach about Mundine's change of political heart is the (to me,faux) popularism.

For example, he is reported as saying something to the effect that at some point he realised that nobody in his local branch of the ALP worked on the "shop floor." If true, that was at least as much a statement about where he was living (Haberfield was mentioned, though perhaps that was the marital home and he had moved on by the time of this observation, though I bet it wasn't to Fairfield of Blacktown) than about the Labor Party. Certainly his own "shop floor" days were long behind him.

Upward and then rightward drift has always been an occupational hazard for Labor/Labour politicians and so a risk for their parties - Ramsay MacDonald is probably the classic example; Bill Hayden shows signs of it too.

Anonymous said...

marcellous, 'rightward drift' has also been noted as a sign of increasing age. (And I forced myself to delete 'wisdom' :)


Jim Belshaw said...

On your typology, marcellous, I guess that you might add Billy Hughes to the list.

I am close enough to Warren Mundine's statements to really make a comment on his views. In contrast to Evan's assessment, I can see a lot of sense in some of Noel Pearson's views!

Perhaps as as kvd said that's a move to the right with age (Wisdom is another matter). Actually, on all the pop measures, I seem to have moved a little to the left! Shudder!

Anonymous said...


I realise now I got former and latter mixed up. My guess (truly!) was as you say.

Jim Belshaw said...

Accepted, marcellous! :). I thought that was the case.

Scott Hastings said...

I happened to be in the local area council office earlier this week. I noticed a poster on the wall explaining their processes and governance. For nearly all votes a Quorum was set at just 10%! No wonder LACs have been attacked as non democratic bodies.

Jim Belshaw said...

I think that's a quota, Scott, not quorum. Some councils have wards, but many elect councils via a proportional representation system a bit like the Senate's.

khoo soo hay said...

Dear Jim,
Khoo Soo Hay here from Penang, Malaysia, Wright College 1960-1963 whose book of poetry entitled, "In Ancient Ayuthia" has been commented by you in your blog sometime ago, when I discovered it. Jennifer Miller of UNE Alumni Association said a copy has been lodged in the Dixon Library.
I lost tough with Robert Barnard and Louise, his Armidale wife, more than 15 years ago, when I stopped sending him my annual family activity report and Xmas and New Year Greetings since 1998, when part of our house suffered a fire in my daughter's upstairs room, and spread to other parts of the house.
In my first overseas trip to England in late November 1983,I stayed with Ron Clayton, who was then Assoc. Professor of History at York University and his Malay Kelantan wife and then later with Bob and Louise for a night at their heritage thatched bungalow in Leeds. At that time he had retired from his position as Professor of English at the University of Tromso in Norway and concentrated on writing his crime fiction. They had no children at that time.
I did recommend some of his crime books for my Penang Club library.
He gave me carte blanche to grab each of his published books in upstairs room at that time. I had been trying to get in touch with him for the past years but somehow did not find the time. It was a pity that I did not have his email address.
Robert was quite perceptive of the life led by the campus denizens, academic and non academic. I wonder how is Louise coping? She must be in her late 70's now. Any news of her? Do you by chance have her contact address or email?
Would appreciate receiving that if you have.
I must thank you for writing so much about me and NEUCLEUS. I may still have copies of Neucluse in my trunk. If you are interested I can find them and perhaps post some over to you. Please give me your postal address then, if you want me to do that. This is after all part of New England University history, of which I am proud to be associated as an overseas student.
My home address is 64 Taman Jesselton, George Town, 10450 Penang,Malaysia. My email is My mobile is 6012-470-9236
By the way, I responded to Frances Letters in her Facebook some weeks ago, but did not get any response from her since.Know her? She is Prof. Letters's daughter and was at that time helping out with NEUCLEUS.
Cheers, keep well and keep in touch.

"Soo Khoo" aka Khoo Soo Hay

khoo soo hay said...

Dear Jim,
Sorry, missed out my email address which is

Soo Khoo aka Khoo Soo Hay

Jim Belshaw said...

Hi Soo. Lovely to hear from you. You still didn't leave your full email address. I don't have an address for Louise, although someone in our network may.

If you do have copies of Neucleus, would love to get them. I am still in touch with Winton Bates, he is a fellow blogger, and I know that he would be interested too.

I do know Francis. Hard not too. I have written about her book. While I live in Sydney at the moment, I am still in touch with Armidale. Will follow up, and will also write to you at your snail mail address.

khoo soo hay said...

Dear Jim,
Sorry, missed out on my email address which is
Can you give me your Sydney home address so that I can send the old Neucleus issues to you? Please send to my email address as I access my mails almost daily.
Give my rgds to Winton Bates.
Wrm rgds.,

Soo Khoo aka Khoo Soo Hay

Jim Belshaw said...

Soo, I am going to have to write to you. You are obviously writing it, but it's not coming through! My snail mail address is not a secret - 45 Astrolabe Road, Daceyville, NSW, Australia 2032.

I will pass on you regards to WB, although he may in fact see them since I know that he visits sometime!